A day in the life of Conan Doyle by Daniel and Eugene Friedman

Sunday, April 4, 1880

All of my efforts to prove myself an able seaman ended abruptly yesterday with Captain Gray’s order to commence the seal hunt. At first, he was reluctant to let me, his ship’s surgeon, work alongside his crew in the bloody enterprise, but with a little work, I was able to convince him otherwise. Beating his steward to a pulp in a boxing match five weeks ago helped. That victory earned me the respect of the crew and officers, and I became one of them! I was unwilling to lose that by shielding myself from the rigors of the hunt. Now, after embarrassing myself on the ice, I’ll have to start over again. It’s virtually impossible to compete with men who don’t set foot on land for a half-year at a time. Although my muscles are burning, I’ll have to pull myself together. Grab that club, Doyle! You can do this!

I put on my sealing clothes, still damp with yesterday’s brine, and head to the officers’ mess for breakfast. I position myself next to Colin McClean, the first mate. He eyes me without smiling and grudgingly sputters “Where’s your mittens, Doyle?” I see he has not forgotten. It seemed funny to me at the time to wear a seal’s hind flippers as if I were a gloved cub, but losing my mittens in the process only served to make me look foolish to McClean and the others. I’ve only eaten a few morsels when McClean suddenly gets up to prepare for the day’s upcoming seal hunt. I decide to skip the rest of breakfast and head to the deck.

Just in the nick of time! Colin’s still here, and he’s coming towards me. “How’s Haggie?” he asks curtly. “The chlorodyne is finally taking effect” I say. But I’m lying to both of us. Haggie’s beyond hope. And with only three years of medical school under my belt, I have no idea what to do for his excruciating abdominal pain. But there is something I can do for the crew, and that’s to help them meet their quota of seal. Their livelihoods depend on it.

McClean jumps over the bulwarks onto the ice. I want to follow, but I need to be more cautious. Yesterday, when I fell into the water, I was caught between two jagged ice floes. If the crew hadn’t hauled me out with a boathook, I would have been cut in half! I need to win back the mens’ respect by catching and skinning some seals by myself today. It’s imperative that Colin and the others see me doing this. The reflection of the Arctic sun on the ice is blinding, and I can’t spot Colin or anyone else, and, I fear, they can’t see me either. I’ll just keep walking about until I find them.

Suddenly, I see a huge bottlenose. I need this one. The footing is treacherous, but nevertheless, I grasp my club tightly and maneuver closer, carefully jumping from one ice floe to the next. She doesn’t see me. She is more intent on bathing in the sun. I daren’t make a sound as I sneak behind her. I steady myself, and visualizing her head as a cricket ball, swing my club. Contact! Her crystalline lenses explode from their sockets like a shower of hailstones, and bright red blood flows down her ink-black skin. I unsheathe my knife and move in for the kill, but in doing so, I slip off the ice and slide backwards into the freezing water.

I lunge for the edge of the ice floe but can’t gain a firm hold on it. No one can see me! I instinctively grasp at the seal’s flipper as my body goes numb. Unfortunately, the dying seal is slipping over the edge and, with that, my only chance of surviving is fading fast. I challenge her to a risky game of tug of war, well aware that if she falls in, we’ll both be residing in Davy Jones’s Locker. Using the seal as a ladder, I claw my way up her bloody body. As I scramble up, my fingers knead her doughy skin. Now she is more than half submerged, and, yet, I barely have a knee over the sheer icy edge. It’s now or never! I summon up my courage and use all my might to push myself off the seal, making a miraculous leap to the haven afforded me by the ice sheet. Before my adversary sinks into the sea, she showers me with a plume of crimson-colored water.

Skulking my way back to the Hope, I listen to the crackling sounds emanating from my frozen coat of armor and ponder whether it was my good fortune that no one witnessed what just occurred. I see the Captain watching me – tracking me- through his spyglass. He’s coming down to meet the frozen savage who’s covered in sweat and gore. Captain Gray knows precisely what happened, and as I climb over the wall he chuckles “The Great Northern Diver has returned to its nest!”


You can read more about Dr. Doyle in The Strange Case of Dr. Doyle.

In the spring of 1905, members of an exclusive club of crime enthusiasts known as Our Society were taken on a guided excursion through Whitechapel, one of London’s most notorious districts, by Dr. Frederick Gordon Brown, the chief police surgeon for the City of London. But this was no ordinary sightseeing tour. The focus of the outing was Jack the Ripper’s reputed murder sites, and among the guests that day was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the world’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes.

Here, now, in The Strange Case of Dr. Doyle by first-time son/father writing team Daniel Friedman, MD, and Eugene Friedman, MD, you are cordially invited to join a recreation of that tour. This expedition, however, will differ from the original in one very important way: It will be led by celebrated author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself. As you stroll beside Doyle and his other guests, you will travel to the location of each of the five canonical Ripper murders. Thanks to your guide’s observations and opinions, all of which are based on actual historical accounts, you will learn as much about the district of Whitechapel as you will the terrible Ripper killings that occurred there.

After each stop on the tour, you will also become acquainted with the life of Arthur Conan Doyle, from his earliest days in Edinburgh to his first taste of success as a writer. You will observe Arthur’s hardships at home, his experiences at boarding school, his adventures at sea, his university education, and his days as a working medical doctor. You will be granted a picture of the man as few have ever seen him. As you alternate between biography and tour, you will become a Holmes-like detective, unearthing facts, discovering details, and piecing together information about both Jack the Ripper and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. If you maintain a sharp mind and a keen eye, at the end of your journey, you may just uncover a truth you never expected to find.

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Meet the authors
Daniel Friedman received his B.A. from Stony Brook University and his M.D. from St. George’s University School of Medicine. He is a practicing pediatrician in Floral Park, New York, and assistant clinical professor at the Northwell-Hofstra University Medical School. He is the co-author of The Strange Case of Dr. Doyle, a fact-based conjectural Jack the Ripper tour conducted by Conan Doyle, as well as a biography of the creator of Sherlock Holmes. He is working on another book that highlights the multiple aspects of Sir Arthur’s personality, and will also reveal newly discovered Conan Doyle stories. In his spare time, he is a singer/songwriter and bass guitarist with the Friedman Brothers Band. Daniel Friedman resides in Miller Place on Long Island with his wife, Elena, and their three children, Amanda, David, and Andrew.

Eugene Friedman received his BA from New York University, his M.D.from New York Medical College, and completed his residency at Metropolitan Hospital Center where he was Chief Resident. During the Vietnam War, he served as a Major in the U.S. Army at Martin Army Hospital, Fort Benning, Georgia. He has been in private practice for more than forty years and has held multiple leadership positions in organized medicine. He is the co-author of The Strange Case of Dr. Doyle, and is partnering with Dan Friedman on his new book. An avid gardener, lyricist, and translator of late nineteenth-century French poetry, he and his wife, Sheryl, live in Dix Hills on Long Island and have five children and fifteen grandchildren.

All comments are welcomed.

2 responses to “A day in the life of Conan Doyle by Daniel and Eugene Friedman

  1. WOW. Fascinating excerpt. Bet the research is meticulous. Kudos to the team writing this book!

    • Dan friedman

      We appreciate your favorable comments. And, yes, we devoted a lot of time and effort to assuring that everything in the book was meticulously researched and accurate.